Recovery of Damages

Punitive Damages Used to Deter Bad Behavior

Punitive DamagesWhen a child is disrespectful, his parents ground him.  When an adult steals a car, a judge sends her to prison.  Companies cannot be locked away and the threat of isolation cannot be used to deter them from behaving badly, so a different mechanism needed to be created to deal with them.  In the civil law, that mechanism is punitive damages.

Here we will explain the basics of how these damages work, but if you think you may have a case for punitive damages, you should speak with a licensed Oregon attorney.

Punitive versus Compensatory Damages

Reuters reports that Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd is contesting a judgment for $6 billion in punitive damages a jury recently leveled against it in federal court.  The jurors found that Takeda had concealed cancer risks associated with one of its drugs.  That large award was designed to punish the Takeda and to discourage other companies from similar bad behavior in the future.  Takeda is Japan’s largest drug manufacturer, a multi-billion dollar company.

A small punitive damage award of a few thousand dollars likely would not really impact the company enough to change future behavior.  Additionally, an entity that knows it has behaved badly may be willing to enter into a more favorable settlement agreement with the injured parties to avoid a trial and the possibility of punitive damages.

The compensatory damages awarded in the case only amounted to $1.475 million.  Those damages are not designed to punish the company for bad behavior.  Instead, they are designed to make the injured parties whole.  Compensatory damages compensate for things like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, amongst other losses.  So the jurors in the Takeda case decided that it would take just under $1.5 million to make the people hurt by Takeda whole, but that it would take an additional $6 billion judgment against Takeda to discourage future bad behavior.

Oregon Statutes and Punitive Damages

The Oregon Revised Statutes limit when and how punitive damages can be awarded in Oregon.  They cannot be recovered unless the injured party proves by “clear and convincing evidence” that the entity that harmed him “acted with malice or has shown a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and has acted with a conscious indifference to the health, safety, and welfare of others.”  In other words, the injured person needs really strong proof that the entity he is suing was malicious, or that it ignored a very high risk of hurting another’s health, safety, or welfare.  So punitive damages are not awarded in Oregon over simple mistakes.  They are punishing bad behavior.

There are also checks on the amount a jury can award.  After a jury awards punitive damages, the trial judge reviews the award to make sure it is within the range that a “rational juror” would award based on all of the evidence.  There is also a mechanism present in Oregon law that allows a judge to reduce a punitive damage award if the injury party shows it has taken reasonable remedial measures to fix the problem caused by its bad behavior.

In the media, punitive damage awards often times get a bad rap for being excessive or the result of greed, but that is simply not the case.  They serve a very important role in  both our legal and economic system, as do the attorneys who secure these awards.

Related Blog Posts:

Find Out About the Owner After a Dog Bite

In Oregon, the rule is that an owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by the dog if he/she knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous.  This is often referred to as the “one free bite” rule—essentially, an owner is not responsible unless the dog has harmed someone in the past (though, there may be other ways to show that the dog was dangerous).  Strict liability means that the owner is responsible to pay for damages even if he wasn’t at fault.  If the dog somehow escapes his muzzle, cage and backyard, the owner is still responsible.

This is why getting information about the dog’s owner is extremely important.  You may know the owner’s identity because of information from the dog’s collar, because the owner spoke to you, or because you saw where the dog came from.  It may be necessary for you or your lawyer to contact local law enforcement and animal control.

Once we know the owner, we can determine whether there is any insurance.  Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance is often available to pay for injuries caused by a vicious dog.  In some situations, a landlord or home owner may also be responsible.  Otherwise, your only recovery may be through the personal assets of the owner, which can be difficult to collect.

Contact Us

Injuries from dog bites and attacks can range from mild to horrific.  These are some of the most difficult situations we handle, particularly where children are involved.  Even worse, the lack of insurance means that some victims never recover for their injuries.  For that reason, it can be important to find whether others, including landlords and property owners, might be liable for a dog’s vicious nature.  We know Oregon’s laws on dog bites, and we can help you to determine whether you can make a claim for a dog attack.  Contact us at 1-541-617-0555, or fill out our internet Contact form on the right side of the page.  For more information visit our main Dog Attack Injury webpage

Related Articles

Dog Bite Claims on the Rise in Oregon

Dog Bites Represent One-Third of Homeowner Insurance Payouts

Find Out About the Dog After an Attack

Insurance Pays Medical Bills for Aggravation of Underlying Condition

Accident Aggravates InjuriesOur client was driving on the Bend Parkway.  As she approached an intersection, another motorist failed to yield, pulled in front of her car, causing her to crash into the other motorist.  Our client was injured and sought medical attention for her accident related injuries.

Our client’s injuries included soft tissue type injuries.  Prior to the accident, she had an underlying degenerative condition.  The insurance company accepted responsibility for the accident but argued she was not entitled to much compensation because she had an underlying condition prior to the accident.

Attorney Arne Cherkoss ordered our client’s prior medical records.  After a careful review of those records it was clear that although there may have been some degeneration, she was asymptomatic before the accident.  Mr. Cherkoss argued that the accident triggered the symptoms and therefore the insurance company was responsible for all of her medical bills, her lost wages, and pain and suffering, including the aggravation of her underlying condition.

After several rounds of negotiations, the case settled for a fair amount that included all of her accident related medical bills, her lost wages, and compensation for her pain and suffering.

Oregon Cell Phone Laws

Texting while drivingWe all know that distracted driving is dangerous.  We’ve all seen people who drive while reading the paper, shaving, and applying makeup.  In Oregon and beyond, however, legislators have taken special note of cell phone use, with many believing it to be a crisis that follows in the footsteps of drunk driving.

In 2013, police issued about 3,500 citations and 1,600 warnings to drivers for cell phone use.  As of January 1 this year, drivers must be prepared to follow new laws on cell phone use.  We’ve had numerous revisions to these laws over the past few years, so it’s worth stating the most important rules (see the full text here):

  • Drivers cannot use a hand-held cell phone for any reason (calling or texting included)
  • Drivers over age 18 can use cell phones with a hands-free device (like a Bluetooth, or a car kit)
  • Violations of the cell phone law are class C offenses
  • Judges can impose fines of up to $500.00
  • Exception:  drivers using a phone to call for emergency or medical help (if no one else in the car can make the call)
  • Exception: drivers operating ambulances or emergency vehicles
  • Exception: drivers using cell phones for farming or agricultural operations

Violation of the cell phone law is a primary offense, meaning that police officers do not need any other reason to pull the vehicle over.

Discovery of Cell Phone Data in Oregon Personal Injury Cases

Many of our clients are injured because other drivers disobey the cell phone laws.  This information can be particularly useful at trial.  There are a number of ways that can determine whether another driver was using a cell phone illegally at the time of an accident:

  • The other driver admits it, either at the accident scene or in court
  • Someone saw the driver using a cell phone
  • Interrogatories:  when a lawsuit is filed, we have the right to ask written questions of the negligent driver.  We often request information on whether the driver has a cell phone, the cell phone carrier, the phone number, and whether any calls, texts or e-mails were sent or received near the time of the accident.
  • Requests for Production:  when a lawsuit is filed, we can also request that the negligent driver provide us with documents relating to the accident.  We often request copies of cell phone bills, which can provide important information on cell phone use.
  • Subpoenas:  Once we know the cell phone carrier and the cell phone number, we can force the cell phone carrier to give us information on cell phone use at the time of the accident.  If phone calls, texts, or data usage happened near the time of the accident, we can use that at trial.

Contact Us

If you have questions about a car, truck or motorcycle accident, and want to find out if the negligent driving was illegally using a cell phone, contact our automobile injury lawyers at 1-541-617-0555, or fill out our internet Contact form on the right side of the page.    

For More Information

Can You Be Certain That You Will Win Your Case?

It is Friday again and time for another video from Roy. In this week’s video, Roy answers a common question from clients, which is whether or not he can guarantee that they will win their cases. Here is what he has to say on the subject:

We would love to be able to tell you that there is a guarantee that you will win your Oregon personal injury claim, but in reality we cannot. Your case is tried in front of 12 citizens, some of whom do not believe in the justice system and do not believe that injured people should be compensated. Even if you win on liability, the jurors may keep your damage reward low. Unfortunately, we have seen cases where very small money damages are recovered. We have also seen cases where no offers are made and large money damages are awarded. If you are willing to roll the dice, the justice system could work for you.

If you have been injured in an accident in the state of Oregon, call an experienced personal injury attorney right away. Call us for a free consultation at 541-617-0555 or visit our website for more information: roydwyer.com

To view additional informative videos about personal injury law in the state of Oregon, visit Dwyer Williams Dretke PC’s You Tube channel.